As I type this post, thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden. Folks are singing, dancing, waving flags, and generally applauding what they see as American badassery.
All across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and various other forms of social media, folks are weighing on the recent events. While some had measured responses, several of my Facebook friends, for example, were all about “Boo-yah!” “Take that, you terrorists!” “You can’t stop our freedom!” and so on.
I have to admit, though, that I’m definitely feeling some kind of way about all this celebrating.
Let’s not get it twisted: I’m not pro-Bin Laden or pro-al-Qaeda. I think Bin Laden was an asshole and I rebuke terrorism of all kinds. I’m pro-peace, pro-love, and, perhaps above all, pro-sense. Frankly, I’m more concerned with the thousands of folks who died on 9/11 and the tens of thousands of folks who have died since then, and continue to die, in the name of the War on Terror than in celebrating right now, especially since I’m not hearing a whole lot about honoring victims in these celebrations.
I know for some of the folks in front of the White House, at Ground Zero, and in other places, these celebrations are about healing wounds, crying it out, and reconciling their pain with the inevitable schadenfreude this situation incites. While I have loved ones in the military (one of whom participated in rescue missions at the Pentagon on 9/11), I did not lose anyone that day and I’m not here to cast aspersions to those who have and will spend a lifetime dealing with that pain.
But, I suspect for some others these celebrations are not about anything like that. For these folks, the public carrying on at the White House, on Facebook, and elsewhere is about applauding American imperialism, feeling vindicated in our invincibility, and generally acting a racist fool (cue the inevitable anti-Arab sentiment). And I just can’t cosign on folks wanting to engage in some collective jingoistic masturbation. I just can’t.
A few days ago, President Obama had to show his papers to prove he was legit, and now he’s pulled what some might call the ultimate H.N.I.C. card on Birthers, Tea Partiers, and haters in general. (Yeah, I saw his “see you in 2012, busters!” strut as he left the podium after his speech).
But the fact remains is that President Obama felt he had to show his papers to get some respect. So, one day he’s showing his papers and the next day he’s the best commander-in-chief ever? (Side eye). Excuse me if I don’t think our post-racial, post-feminist, post-sensical society has morphed that much overnight.
I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, ’cause I’m all about parades. I say all this to say that while we’re dancing in the street, we can’t forget that despite what has just happened, the world in some ways has not changed all that much between April 30th and May 1st. Dancing in the street or showing out online does not change a damn thing when our education system is laughable, our healthcare system is pitiful, our criminal justice system is deplorable, and our service men and women are deployed routinely for dubious ends. Need I go on? Suffice it to say, we need to keep our eyes on the prize instead of applauding Pyrrhic victories, no matter how tempting they may seem.